Rewarding loyalty in the era of TV billions

Outside the Hawthorns stands a statue to The Bomber. Not the Bavarian one, he of the 72 goals in the 68 internationals, but the Black Country one, whose statistics were pretty impressive too.

Rewarding loyalty in the era of TV billions

Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown. Seventeen years on the books at West Bromwich Albion. Made 574 appearances, hit 218 goals. FA Cup winner, League Cup winner, Division One top scorer in 1970-71, one England cap.

Didn’t desert the Baggies when they were relegated in 1973 either, instead hanging around and helping them return in 1976.

On the statue is a quote from the great man: “The first moment time I set foot inside the door as a 15-year-old schoolboy, I knew this was the club for me.”

In a week such as the one we’ve had, when Sky and BT inked their deals with the Premier League for not much less than the cost of the invasion of Iraq, it’s easy to get sentimental about what’s lost and gone forever and to lament the passing — even if he’s still hale and hearty — of men like Bomber Brown: God be with the days, etc. Yet even by modern standards the new television deal is staggering.

Up from £3.018 billion (€4.07bn) in total to £5.136bn (€6.93bn), with Sky’s share of the cheque increasing from £2.28bn (€3.07bn) to £4.176bn (€5.63bn), £1bn more than the City of London expected.

Overall the price for the rights increased by 70% on the last deal in 2012, which in turn was 70% up on the deal before that. No wonder Jamie Carragher was moved to comment he wouldn’t be going for coaching badges for another few years. (For every reaction there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

The bad news in this case is BT will surely be doubling Michael ‘Mogadon’ Owens’s salary.)

The cost per game to Sky under the original deal in 1992 was £600,000. The cost per game to them from 2016 will be £10.2m.

What would Bomber Brown think? We know what Harry Kane thinks. He wants to spend his entire career at White Hart Lane, he announced in the full lilywhite flush of the brace he bagged in last weekend’s north London derby.

The obvious riposte is that he’ll be doing nothing of the sort and that in five years’ time, in the fairly likely event that he’s not in fact plying his trade with Real Madrid, he’ll be lining out for Fulham or Brentford, to finish his days at Leyton Orient.

Still, one didn’t have to be a Tottenham loyalist to find Kane’s declaration refreshing. His head may well be turned before he’s too much older, but for the moment, here’s someone who — unlike Raheem Sterling, it appears — is not primarily concerned with his next pay rise.

Not unlike the young lads at Real Sociedad, who David Moyes has discovered to be hungrier than their English counterparts because they haven’t had it as handy financially.

Not so Paulo Dybala of Palermo, if the club’s owner Maurizio Zamperini is to be believed. Dybala, who at 21 is the same age as Kane, has also been banging ‘em in this season and has been linked with both Manchester clubs. Zamperini reckons he could be the next Edinson Cavani.

Problem is, he’s “being conditioned by people who don’t want to do what’s right for him, people who only consider players money-making machines. He has changed completely and is surrounded by terrible teachers. I no longer speak with him.”

Sounds like Paulo will be gracing the Premier League before his 22nd birthday, hanging with Jack Rodwell and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Given that all the indications are that this particular bubble will not be bursting any time soon, what — as a hundred agonised think pieces have wondered these last few days — is to be done?

Well, a price cut for away fans would indeed be a smart, not to mention eminently affordable, PR gesture. We shall see. But it’s a gimme that Richard Scudamore’s warning to clubs not the blow the loot on agents and wages will be as blithely ignored as it was last time around. Especially if QPR stay up.

Really, with Arsene Wenger predicting the new deal will lead to an even bigger influx of foreign players, there’s nothing else for it. Where have you gone, Bomber Brown? God be with the days indeed.

50 shades of dross for dull Villains 

Any chance we can save everyone a lot of time and angst, not least their own fans, and relegate Aston Villa now?

It would be sad, obviously. Nobody likes seeing a grand old club fall on hard times, and in the era of Abramovich’s Chelsea and Abu Dhabi’s Man City, grand old clubs are a species to be cherished. But it’d also be the kindest thing, even with Paul Lambert gone.

Last Saturday they very nearly made the front pages when scoring against Chelsea, their first goal since Doug Ellis was a schoolboy.

On Tuesday they regressed with another scoreless performance in losing at Hull City. They’re a Samuel Beckett play of a team, terse and grim, minus the hidden depths and the goalmouth action.

That Holte End banner recalling Peter Withe’s European Cup final-winning goal in 1982 becomes more and more of a black joke by the week.

A good job Withe and Gary Shaw, the other scoring hero of the club’s 1981-82 apotheosis, remain with us. They’d be turning in their graves at all these “Aston Villa 0s” otherwise.

I’ve a distant cousin, married to a Villa fanatic, whose two children were over there at Christmas for the visit of Crystal Palace. It was horrible and cold and scoreless (naturally), and how the poor Dickensian waifs didn’t contract a right dose of hypothermia remains a mystery. I accused her of child abuse afterwards. “It’s character-forming,” she demurred.

Okay, we do live in the age of 50 Shades. One man’s idea of a nice cosy BDSM session is another woman’s 90 minutes at Villa Park. It’s high time, as Lady Bracknell might have said, Villa made up their mind whether they want to live or die. Otherwise their long, slow puncture will continue until May. Assuming the rest of us don’t lose the will to live in the meantime.


Stairway to Heaven

AP McCoy: Know the way it’s become a national reflex to intone the phrase “Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís” when anyone vaguely notable departs the stage? In this instance it’s actually appropriate.

Carlow IT: Barely mapped on the third-level GAA scene until lately, now into the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals and the Sigerson semis. Follow me up.

Hell in a handcart

Ian Keatley: Five scores from five kicks in Rome last Saturday but no room at the inn today. Not unexpected. Still painful.

That new Kilkenny jersey: No collar and narrower stripes. Last time they tried a revamp as radical as this was 1976 — and Wexford beat them by 17 points in the Leinster final. No good can come of this.

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